Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Child Development

Jumping Jacks!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: activities, jumping games, physical

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Jumping Games are fun and a great way of doing some exercise, here are some jumping games for you to play with your little ones...

  • Think about your landing: knees bent, arms forward, toes then flat foot.
  • Jump on the spot and them move around the room.  How does it feel different?
  • Run and jump - is it easy or hard?
  • Jump over - some cushions or a brave Teddy!
  • Jump over a moving object - how about a swirling rope or a path or a brook if you have one nearby!
  • Jump like animals that the children suggest.  If they suggest animals that not everyone knows about, look them up on line and find them!
  • What does jumping do to our bodies?  Heart beat faster, legs ache (a bit!), arms swing, feet make a noise on the floor as we land etc.
  • Hang some ribbons or balloons from a height just above the children's reach (on a washing line perhaps!) and see if they can bat the balloons. Or, hang bells or shakers that will make a noise when batted.
  • How many an the children reach?  Count the number of noises you hear for each child.
  • Follow my Jumper - one person leads and jumps in different ways as all the children behind have to follow.

Have fun!


Pre-Reading Skills

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: letters, reading skills, words

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Before any child can even attempt to read, they need various basic skills which will stay with them throughout their reading career! Some of these skills come naturally through every day life. They hear and use words themselves, they have seen books and heard teachers or parents read from them, they have enjoyed the thrill or comedy of a good book etc. But there are also things you can do as a parent or carer to help your child come even close to that magical day when they pick up a book, and read it for themselves!


1. Read, read and then pick up another book and read!

  • Reading to your children is the best way to get them interested.
  • Use silly voices, choose exciting and a varied selection of books, act them out, dress up, find books with great illustrations and make reading fun!
  • Read in bed, under a tree, in the car... wherever you can, but make it fun.
  • If ever they are too tired, just accept it and do it another day.

2. Practice rhyming words.

  • This a great way to introduce new words, and show children that words rhyme.
  • Sing nursery rhymes together.
  • When singing songs, stop and see if your child can finish the rhyme. Then change the words and see if they can think of a new word to rhyme?
  • Play I Spy With My Little Eye but use rhyming words: try I Hear With My Little Ear Something That Rhymes With Tree... etc

3. Recognition and Matching.

  • Matching letters with their sounds is a vital part of reading.
  • To help, try playing some matching games Play Snap! and Pairs.
  • Try playing Dominoes.
  • Do some puzzles, and even try tricky ones together.
  • Match socks when doing the washing and sort the cutlery into drawers when doing the washing up.

4. Letters.

  • Letters are vital when reading, so learning to be comfortable using letters and confident talking about them is vital.
  • When you go out, stress the first letter as you get ready. So, put on your s-s-socks, j-j-jacket, g-g-gloves. As you walk down the road, see the h-h-house, and the c-c-car.
  • Spot letters as you walk about round your home. Shop signs, traffic signs, road names etc.
  • Sound out and using your fingers trace the letters on road names if you can reach.

5. Use words.

  • Having chats about things you see and do is a great way to develop language.
  • Try to use new words, describe things in an exciting way and encourage them to talk to other children about their experiences.

You've Got A Friend...

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Parenting, Child Development, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: eyfs, friends, making friends, personal development, relationships, social development

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Making friends, especially if you are a toddler, is not always easy... some children are keen to have 'best friends', others go around in packs and some are simply not interested at all.  When you ask who they played with a nursery and they say 'no one' it can be heart-breaking.  But, we have to remember that some children are emotionally 'advanced' and understand the concept of having a friend; whereas others are more interested in playing along side another child with no interaction at all.

If your child is nervous of making friends or you want to gently encourage them to make some new friends, here are a few ideas for encouraging and guiding them.  Friendship is an important part of all our lives and the importance placed on making friends in childhood is demonstrated by the fact that 'Forming Relationships' is part of the EYFS and is a focus of Personal, Social and Emotional Development.

Here are some tips on how you can help children make friends:

  • Give them plenty of opportunity to make friends: see lots of people and do lots of different activities
  • Give them lots of praise when they do something kind to another person
  • Don't force them or try to make them form friendships with people they don't like even if you like them!
  • Try not to interfere when they are interacting or playing
  • Be bold and approach people at playgroup and get to know them yourself
  • Lead by example, chat to people and make friends yourself
  • Talk about being kind, sharing and being a good friend while you are at home
  • Support any efforts to make friends even if they fail
  • Look at photos of friends and chat about how much fun they can be

Colourful Collage!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Kids Art and Craft, Child Development, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: craft, creative, fine motor skills, making

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Making a collage is easy, fun and a great way for little ones to practice their fine motor skills. Once assembled, they can see their work and touch it too experiencing all the different textures and materials. Collage is actually one of the areas of artistic experience that children should be exposed to within the EYFS, along with painting, drawing, printing, textiles and 3D.

So, how to go about having some collage fun:

  1. Find your materials: go out into the park for leaves, to the shop for paper, look in the recycle bins for other materials. You could make the looking an activity in itself by talking about how each item feels, how heavy it is, whether it will stick onto paper and what colour it is.
  2. Then you can start sticking and gluing!


  • Make sure the paper you use is heavy enough to hold the collage. You don't want it ripping.
  • Make sure you have plenty of strong but non toxic glue so bits don't fall off!
  • Make sure you have plenty of space to really get stuck in!
  • Make sure everything is covered i.e. clothing and table tops to ensure no gluey accidents.
  • Don't tell the children what to do necessarily; let them experiment!

Collage materials:

  • Cotton wool, wool, string.
  • Leaves, grasses, flowers.
  • Tissue paper, wrapping paper, newspaper and magazine pictures.
  • Glitter, sequins, beads.

Other associated activities:

  • Foraging for the materials can be fun. Talk about looking high and low, up and down, round the corner etc. Use lots of different words to describe where you are looking and what you are looking for.
  • Close work: look at the materials you find closely. Are they rough or smooth, are they prickly or bumpy? Again, describe the items and talk about them.
  • Sorting: sort them into little piles and then put them in pots.  Label them for next time. All the buttons together, all the cotton wool together etc.
  • Look at the letters that each material begins with: p for paper, and g for glue etc.


Communicating With Parents!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Child Development, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: childcare, eyfs, parents involved

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Research has shown that children benefit more from childcare when their parents are involved.

This research has proved that parents who take an active interest in their children's childcare, reap the benefits. And, the children of parents who get involved settle better and progress more quickly.

This is not to say that parents need to go in and help once a week at nursery or donate lots of funds. It simply means trying to do the following:

  • trying to understand what activities your child is doing when at nursery or with the childminder
  • finding out what topics are being studied and chat about them together at home
  • speaking to the childminder and keeping in touch with progress and development
  • sharing with the childminder what your child has enjoyed at home or outings they have had at the weekend
  • keeping an eye on your child's Daily Diary and sharing it with them
  • looking and enjoying the arts and crafts your child come home with... perhaps trying them for yourselves at home

The Childcare Trust suggests arranging a daily diary for your child as it is a great idea to monitor and share activities and events. For a great, easy to use on-line Daily Diary (and a great activities-based learning programme for 0-5s) go to for a free trial!

Childhood Skills

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Child Development, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: children, computers, skills, technology

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Children today are better at using a computer than tying their shoelaces - according to a recent poll nearly all of the children questioned could play a computer game but only a third could tie their shoe laces! Of the 1057 five to seven-year-olds questions, 97% of them could operate a computer which is staggering.

But is this surprising or shocking? Not surprising as it is a technological world in which we live. Computers are everywhere and are a vital part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Also, not all computer games are dangerous and harmful! Many are educational, entertaining and charming for children to enjoy. And, just because a child knows how to use a computer, it does not mean that same child doesn't attend football classes, climb trees and get enough fresh air and exercise.

Nearly half the children questioned have access to the internet at home, according to Kelkoo who carried out the study. Of the parents questioned, 26% suggested they were worried about the negative impact of technology on their children but and their ability to form relationships. But 87% said that being familiar with technology was vital to their child’s development.

Clearly, monitoring your child's use of the internet and computer based games is vital, but we have to understand that computers are also a vital part of our world and you don't want your child being left behind.

I suppose the question remains: how useful is using a computer (to research, to communicate and to have some fun too) compared with the life long use of tying a shoelace in an age of buckles and velcro.

What do you think? Please post your thoughts.

Tall and Small Children

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: genes, height, small, tall

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"Line up please, tallest children at the back and shortest at the front."  Even when they are in nursery, for some extra tall or extra short children the idea of a teacher calling out these words can be daunting.  "Aren't you tiny!" or "You are so tall!" are phrases they hear again and again.

If your child is being teased about their height or have been made to feel too short or too small, then there are sme things you can say to reassure them.

  • everyone grows at different times and at different rates
  • no one can do anything about their height so there is nothing they can do
  • height has nothing to do with being fast at running (when you're small!), being clever, or good or kind or pretty so they need not worry!

How tall will your children be? It really just depends on genes.  Most children should look to their parents height for a rough idea of how tall they will be.

Remember - do make sure children are in the right car seat for their height and not just their age.  It will effect the suitability and safety of the car seat.

Normal growth - Ensure normal growth by making sure the children eat well and take physical exercise.  While this will not make them taller, it will enable their bodies to develop properly.  Plenty of sleep too will help too but basically if the child has genes which dictates they will be shorter than average there is nothing much you can do to change this.  Do not get them to eat more or give them lots of extra vitamins to get them taller.  It just won't work.

Can being short ever point to a medical problem?
If you are worried go along to your doctor or health visitor to get reassurance.

Real medical issues can be caused by:

  • chronic illness (such as liver, lung, kidney problems)
  • Malnutrition
  • Hormone problems
  • Genetic issues

Memory Games

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: memory games

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Thinking about things and remembering things is usually easy for children - they have excellent memories!  By the age of 3, there are trillions of of connections that are forming the brain. By doing activities and games with your children it can help in the formation of those connections.

Try these activities to see how good they are are remembering names and places.

What colour?

  • ... is the neighbour's car?
  • ... is Granny's front door?
  • ... is Daddy's coat?
  • ... is the nursery fence?

Take 5 things...

  • Put 5 objects on a tray. Take one away and see if your child can spot what's gone?
  • Choose 5 ingredients (a carrot, potato, leek, pepper etc) and put them in a sauce pan. Put the lid on and pretend to cook it  Then try to recall what when in!

Go to the shops...

  • Play the memory game "I went to the shops...". Name an item you each bought as you take a turn and try to recall all the items as you go. You could choose alphabetical things to make it easier!

My name is... and I like to...

  • Simply state your names in turn and tell the others what you like to do.  It may be true or made up!  See how many things you can remember.

I Went on holiday and I took...

  • Choose items in turn that you took on holiday and see how many you can recall.

Games of this sort are all great to get children thinking and getting them used to recalling information.  It's a great way to see how well they are learning.

Let's Listen To Music

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: music, noise, singing

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Kids instinctively love music, whether it's nursery rhymes, pop music, lift music or classical they do tend to stop and listen when they hear music being played.

All children, it seems, also like to make loud noises. Whether it's shouting, singing, blowing a trumpet, or just banging around they love to be heard. But what are the benefits of introducing music to children from a young age?

Why instruments are good for children

  • Hand eye co-ordination. To hold a spoon and bang a saucepan lid takes aim, and action to make the noise happen effectively.
  • Singing and learning new songs is good for children as it helps them learn new words and announciate words properly that they already know.
  • Singing may also improve their understanding of words and encourage them to branch out with their vocabulary.
  • Listening is greatly helped by music. Getting children to listen to the sounds of the music, beat out a rhythm and imitate the noise they hear is good for their listening skills and can even benefit their mathematical skills.
  • Even if you can't sing or play an instrument, you can encourage your child to enjoy music. Play them lots of different types of music and listen to them together.
  • Have a dance and try to hear whether the music is fast or slow. Good exercise!
  • The children don't care if you can sing or not... as far as they are concerned you are playing and interacting with them so they are happy, so don't be discouraged if you don't sing pitch perfect! And, if they see you having a go... they will too!
  • Make your own instruments by putting beans or pasta or lentils in a bottle to make a shaker or banging some tins with a wooden spoon.
  • Do clapping and slapping games. Clap a few times and see if your child can copy. Then clap a rhythm and see if they can copy.
  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes together. Sing loudly, softly, fast and slow.
  • Try making music with your own body... slap (gently!) your cheek with a finger, or clap your thigh, flick and click your fingers, clap hands together.
  • Do action songs... I'm A Little Teapot, Row Row etc.


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!

What is ADHD?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Child Development , Tags: add, adhd, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, behaviour

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So many people claim that children's unruly behaviour is down to them having 'ADHD' but can bad behaviour in a child be simply explained away by labeling them with such a tag?  For some children the diagnosis of 'Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder' is accurate, but for so many it's just not the case.

What is it? ADHD is a medical term which originally comes from the North American Psychiatric Association.

  • ADD means Attention Deficit Disorder.
  • ADHD means Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

It is said that ADHD effects up to three percent of the population. It is usually associated with boys rather than girls.

A child has ADHD if:

  • they have difficulty concentrating and can't ignore distracting sounds or they get lost in their own daydream and its hard to get them to listen.
  • they do not have their own ideas to begin games or activities alone
  • they forget or lose things often or can't remember instructions
  • they continue to fiddle or fidget when everyone else sits still
  • they shout out answers and talk a lot and they act without thinking - so do things without caring about the consequences
  • they have trouble waiting their turn or sharing
  • they won't follow rules

But even children who demonstrate all or some of these things are not necessarily suffering from ADHD.  It needs to be repeated, unintentional behaviour and diagnosed by a professional.  If you think your child might be suffering have a chat to the teacher, doctor or health professional for advice and help.

Avoiding Stress

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health, Child Development , Tags: anxious, children, stress, support

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When it feels like we can't cope, we begin to worry and get stressed and exactly the same is true of children. There are certain times when children might not not be calm: at times of great change such as moving house, parents separating or divorcing, when changing class or school, or making new friends.

Signs that your child might be stressed:

  • They become aggressive
  • They become withdrawn and very quiet
  • They burst into tears easily
  • They gain a reputation for being 'a worrier'.

Ways to help keep your child stress free:

  • Keep a routine: children feel secure when they are in a good routine. They know what's going to happen next and how things work. If there is going to be a change then tell them and explain to them.
  • Be organised: Help your child to be organised too by preparing for school the night before. Make sure everything is ready such as their bag, dinner money, PE kit, letters. Try and develop a system together to make sure things are ready. Hang book bags in a special place, keep shoes near the front door.
  • Be on time: It's never a good feeling to be late, so try to make yourself on time or early for school or clubs etc. even if it means getting up early or leaving the house before normal!
  • Be a role model: Try and be calm and organised yourself and show how to run a calm house and lifestyle.
  • Have a chat: Make sure you speak to your children and listen to any worries or concerns. Take their worries seriously and be positive, supportive and encourage calm discussion rather than brush it off as unimportant.
  • Try to imagine how they feel: put yourself in their shoes.
  • Tell stories: Share stories in which people overcome fears or worries and succeed. Go to the library to find some books and share your own experiences or make up stories to show how to deal with concerns.
  • Praise: Give plenty of encouragement and praise.
  • Focus on the positive and their self esteem will grow. Congratulate them when they do well and tell them how good they have been etc.
  • Bedtime: Make sure you have a calm and happy bed time. Read stories, have a bubbly bath, keep it calm and positive leaving all worries outside the bedroom.
  • Be kind: Try to remember they are only little and in order for the children to grown in confidence and learn they need to feel supported and loved.

Shy Children and What To Do

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Child Development , Tags: anxiety, shyness, timidity

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At some point or another we all experience shyness but with little ones it can be so sad to see them clamp up and shrink back from interaction with other adults and children.  Shyness may be prompted by being in a new group, having difficulty at school, if they are worried about something, being in different social situations etc.

Why does shyness occur?

  • Is shyness inherited or learned? There is no definitive research proving it is caused by hereditary. Shyness may be a behaviour that is learned stemming from being raised by shy parents. Shy parents typically don’t teach or demonstrate the social skills that can guide the children away from shyness.
  • Temperament – it has been found that about 10% of children are born with a tendency to be inhibited. This is called “inhibited temperament” and means they come into the world more sensitive to stimuli (noise, people, touch etc.) This idea and impression is then transferred into their social world.
  • Parenting style – if parents are too protective or if they demonstrate inconsistent parenting styles this can affect the child. Also those parents who instil fear in their children can cause insecurities.
  • If the children always seem to be in situations where they are exposed to difficult or new social situations this can affect them and polarise the shyness.
  • Feeling picked-on - if they are in situations where they are made to feel insecure by others, this can compound the shyness.

Some tips which may help your child:

  1. Talk to your child. Try to be as open and as relaxed as possible around them. Try and listen to their worries and encourage them to tell you how they feel. Talk about what scares them in social situations and support and confirm that you are always there for them.
  2. Help them to take risks. Encourage them to mix with other children in playgroups and encourage older children to join clubs and get involved. Slowly at first and showing plenty of guidance persuade them to get involved and have fun with new friends.
  3. Do role play. Practice what they need to say and do in difficult situations. Encourage them to make eye contact, introduce friends, and practice what to say in different situations. Set up scenarios and work through conversations together. Keep it fun though.
  4. Praise them. When they do a good job in a new situation or when meeting people make sure you acknowledge their success and praise them.
  5. Don’t label them as shy. It is so deflating to be labelled and so hard not to just do what is expected of you, so try not to talk about their shyness and label them.
  6. Focus on what they are good at. Increase their self-esteem and confidence by doing things they are good at and finding ways they can be successful.
  7. Explain what is going to happen each day so some of the anxiety may be reduced as they know the plan for the day ahead and feel more secure about what's coming next.
  8. Share your own experiences. Tell them about your own nervousness in situations or about when you were small how you felt in different situations. This will make them feel normal.
  9. Keep positive. Don't nag them about the shyness, keep a positive outlook and attitude towards your child.
  10. Go along to new places together first (new school or tennis or ballet class) when nothing is going on a show them round so they get to see the place first.
  11. Tell the teacher or group leader that your child is shy so they are aware and can be mindful of them during the session.
  12. Don't try and change them and put undue pressure on them... let them be comfortable in their own skin. Just give them plenty of support and guide them to be as happy as they can be.

Beauty Salons for Babies!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health, Child Development , Tags: beauty salon, childhood, children, facial, parenting

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A new beauty salon has opened in Essex that offers makeovers, spray tans and facials for girls as young as one year old! The salon, which caters only for the under-13s has been opened in Brentwood, Essex.

The new beauty shop, called Trendy Monkeys, is owned by Michelle Devine and girls of any age can come in for various glamour treatments and services normally reserved for older women. They will even do a spray tan for a child if a requested.

Brentwood is the setting for the ITV series The Only Way Is Essex which follows the lives of glamour-obsessed young people. According to the owner the shop has been very successful already.  Apparently one of the first customers to be served in the new salon was only 16 months old.

It's okay to play make-believe and pop on a pair of Mummy's shoes and do role play games about looking after baby dolls or playing schools.  However, allowing and indeed encouraging, toddlers, small children and school age children to go to salons where they can study themselves and change the way they look is distasteful. Fake tans at eight, make-up at 4, manicures at 6, surely this is encouraging an obsession with how they look.

Part of childhood is being taken away and focusing on such activities is detrimental to normal childhood ideas and experiences. Children should be out walking, feeding the ducks, flying kites, throwing stick into streams and enjoying the carefree, happy days of childhood... not stuck in a salon under the nail dryer!

Is this a step towards the sexualisation of children, an erosion of the innocence of childhood?  Should wearing of make-up be a rite of passage when our children are more mature and not something to be experimented with and taken seriously at a young age?  Or are salons like Trendy Monkey's just a harmless bit of fun?

Are Our Children Growing Up Too Quickly?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Child Development, Family , Tags: adverts, childrens clothes, growing up, sexual culture, television, tv

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According to research published by the Department of Education, nine out of ten parents think their children are being forced to grow up too quickly! The researchers asked 1,000 parents various questions and found that over half thought the programmes and tv adverts shown before 9pm were unacceptable.

They also found that 60% of parents thought that some products advertised to children were inappropriate for their age.  Many parents felt they had to buy certain items for their children so to avoid them being "left out" but these products were not considered essential or appropriate, so peer pressure was an issue.

Areas of concern include:

  • Clothes to be age appropriate and not small versions of adult fashion
  • Sexualised content in music videos and early evening TV
  • Pressure to buy non-essential items for their children so they don’t feel left out.

Findings from the survey show that:

  • 40% of parents said they had seen things in public places (shop windows, advertising) that they felt were inappropriate for children because of sexual content
  • 41 % said they had seen programmes or adverts on TV before 9pm that they felt were unsuitable or inappropriate for children due to their sexual content.
  • Of those parents who had felt the need to complain about these issues but hadn’t, over 60% said that they had not done so either because they didn’t think anything would be done or they didn’t know who to complain to.
  • Around half of parents felt that celebrity culture, adult style clothes and music videos are encouraging children to act older than they are.

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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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